Sweet Aroma

Sherri McReynolds:  She is my rock!  My stable ground.  When I need a gentle word and a steady voice, she is the one I call.  God only placed her in my physical surrounding for short period of time but he placed her there at just the right time.  She has been my “hiding place” (literally) and my place to go for rest.  She has supported me during some pretty tough situations and never wavered in the trust she placed in God for our direction.  And now that she has been many miles away from me for a lot of years, I still can hear her sweet voice and feel her hugs.  I so look forward to the day when we can be in the same physical place again.  My friend forever!

30562“I’d like you to write a post for my website….The story of your life with God. Would you do it?”      “Oh my!”, was my response. It made my heart race at the thought! I had never sat down and put pen to paper about “my story”. Did I have one, I wondered? They say everyone has a story to tell, but others seem to have much more interesting stories than mine! Yet, here I sit in the quiet of an early Monday morning, strong coffee with just the right amount of cream and my Bible open. The view out my dining room window indicates fall is in full swing, and in many ways mirrors my life stage. I passed my 50th birthday this last summer along with a few more wrinkles, and gray hair masked by a bit of color.

The summer of 1966 was my grand entrance into this world. The last of five children, born in a small Texas Panhandle town, to a pretty, 28 year-old mother, and a 29 year-old handsome, young preacher. I’m told my mama had to sweet-talk my daddy into the last 3 children, and I’m so glad she did! My parents would gather us all into the living room every night for a devotional. Daddy would read scripture, we would sing “Abide with Me”, and then we would each take turns praying. God was becoming more real to me, even at that tender young age. Sundays were my favorite day of the week in that small Colorado town where we now lived. I vividly remember running into the bathroom where my mama was getting ready for church and excitedly asked her, “Do you know what my favorite day of the week is? Sunday!”.   I was too young yet to understand the gravity of the struggle in the world outside in the early 1970’s…bomb threats due to racial tension that sent my older brother and sister home from high school, inflation, Vietnam, etc. My world was secure, safe, and warm. I knew nothing of the impact of sin. But then I started Kindergarten. The sweet, little 5 year-old girl found herself wrapping her beloved doll in a blanket from the play area of the classroom and standing in line to go home. The teacher asked, “Is that your blanket, Sherri?”, to which I replied softly, “Yes”.  Stealing…lying…oh my! I knew it was wrong, but buried it in my young heart and kept it there. A year later, a friend named Missy, taught me how to smoke in the back alley of her house. I was a mature 1st grader, and she a 2nd grader. Why did it seem so easy to give in to temptation? Sin. I buried this guilt in my heart, too. These sins and others began to burden my heart so much, that I finally got the courage to ask my mom one Wednesday night after church, “Do you ever need to tell someone about your sins?” She took me privately into their bedroom, where I sat on the edge of the bed and confessed everything I could think of. She was so gentle, as always, and prayed with me, and hugged me as I cried. The heaviness finally lifted from my heart! Confession really is good for the soul!

When I was 11, I had a very strong conviction to be baptized. I was a private girl and hadn’t shared with my parents about the decision I had been wrestling with. But “something” took me out of that pew that Sunday morning, and my daddy baptized me into Christ. Oh, what a feeling! My sins had all been washed away! I will never forget that day. Never had I experienced that feeling of feeling so free, light and so joyful!

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8.  Wait. Who? Me? Yes, me. Many times in the course of Jr. High and High School I was in a spiritual battle. More lying here, a little deception there, and covering up, and burying deep.  I tried to hide from God. Shamefully, I ceased praying to Him and confessing my sin, allowing Satan to deceive me into thinking, “God isn’t listening to you!”.  But Satan is the father of lies, and makes it his mission to keep us believing those lies. But God has a way of getting our attention to call us back to Him.  He got my attention at that time by moving a young man to town when I was 16.  I’m convinced he was placed there, at that particular time, by God. He and his family only lived there for eight short months before his parents decided that cold, little part of Colorado was not for them and headed back north to Denver. We had only been dating one month before they moved, but that was enough time for God!  Matt needed Him, and little did I know that He would use me. Could God actually use me– broken, flawed, and at times living in out-right rebellion? Yes, He could and He did! God also knew that I needed to be called back to Him and used Matt to do that. It was not an immediate change for either one of us, but our relationship grew through the long distance, and after graduation I moved to Denver. We had many conversations about God, our past mistakes, and what we dreamed of for the future. He was baptized into Christ four months before we married in May of 1986. Matt and I learned to grow in Christ together as we began our married life, and had 2 beautiful children. These “children” are now nearly 27 and 24 years of age, and are my pride and joy! As they grew and were being shaped by God, He was shaping me right along with them.  I, by no means, have mothered them perfectly. So many mistakes have been made. But God is always reminding me of how far He has brought me, and that His grace is sufficient for me.15085547_10211140271962987_6575471649633036569_n

Our family has been through a lot of changes over the past 30 years. Job losses, moves, deaths, divorces within our families, etc.  With every one of these challenges, God has grown me more and more. He has put wonderful, godly women in my life at just the right time, along with families in the body of Christ to share joys with, as well as struggles, and to help carry one another’s burdens that living in this flesh can bring.

There is nothing more vital in this world than living a life of faith in Christ Jesus! Struggles come so that we can see God more clearly. Nothing can ever take the place of the treasure we have in Christ. Yes, even I, in this cracked jar of clay, have a treasure, “….to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from men”. 2 Cor. 4:7.

Through each season of the year, and of my life, may the LORD continually help keep my eyes on Him. No matter how much I mess up, He is faithful. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes on not what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:17-18

Lord, You always have the best timing and know who we need to have.  Thank you for giving me Sherri.  Be with her as she ministers to those around her and help her know that she is a part of Your great story.  Amen

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My Story is not Boring

Patty Raisor: Pure in Heart!  That is what I can say about Patty.  Which means she loves God and through that love she gives.  Gives in many ways to her neighbors in America and to her neighbors across the seas.  She feels BIG, big for joys and big for sorrows.  A person will never fails to feel loved when they are with her.  I have been blessed by her presence in my life.

1780066_10203010322633219_2085411338782936671_oThere is no such thing as a boring story with God.  I use to think my testimony was boring – I grew up in a Christian home, was in church all my life, had every opportunity to know God, did all the “Christian things,” but realized in High School that I had a religion and not a relationship.  It was at a youth camp that I realized I was working to obtain and keep my salvation – it was all about me and what I did.  Once I could see the ugliness of my sin – my attitudes, actions, thoughts, words – I realized I needed to be rescued from myself.  It was at that camp I asked Jesus to be in charge of my life, to save me from myself, to forgive me of my past and be my forever friend.

What is not boring about my story is that God had been pursuing me all my life – He gave me my family, He gave me a Christian upbringing, He protected me from myself and He has continued to hold me tight.

My salvation was secure, but I had not truly made Him Lord over my life which was evident during my college days.  I went my own way and lived a life that made me look like the world around me.  I rarely went to church, I never read the Bible, I prayed when I needed something and I was surrounded by non Christian friends.  My life definitely was not boring – but it was also not fulfilling.  I was running from God thinking I was in charge of my life.  BORING.jpg

Things began to change when I met my future husband.  We had so much in common – we were both Christians, we had very similar home life and interests and he too had been running from God.  We both had the desire to make our marriage God centered which meant getting serious about our relationship with Him.  It was then I committed to making Him Lord of my life.

I began attending Bible studies where I discovered for myself the truth about God, His character, the way He operated and what He desired for my life.  I began to grow in my relationship with Jesus as I applied what I was learning.  God began preparing me to serve Him in my home, the church and in para-church organizations.  Each ministry He placed me in was a training ground for the next assignment He had for me.  My husband and I loved serving God together and He gave us many opportunities which ultimately prepared us for His call to China.  For 2 years we taught English to college students with the main goal of sharing God’s love and showing Jesus to our students.

Why is my story not boring?  Because God’s grace is never boring.  He plucked me out of my self-centered life, He cleaned me up, He held tightly to me when I went my own way, He hand picked my spouse and has kept us together, He trained me for parenting and ministry outside of the home, He enables me to serve Him and He loves me unconditionally.  What a miracle!!

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Lord, Yes what a miracle.  The miracle of Your Son.  The miracle of the love that You show us. I’m grateful for Patti and I pray for the paths that cross her, that they will be blessed by the gifts You have given her. Amen!

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A Journey Home

Sherrie Rison:  Sherrie………what can I say about her except that her smile is contagious! The sweet spirit that she carries so gracefully is one that those around her are blessed by. She is willing to show weakness but admits that her determination can sometimes hold her back from being vulnerable.   I’ve only been blessed by her presence in my life for a couple of years.  I’ve seen her walk through some pretty tough issues and wonder what God is trying to teach her.   I’m also getting to be with her during a time of blessings and joy.  All I know for sure is that God always knows what he is doing and through all of Sherrie’s life, He has been weaving a unbelievably beauuuuuuuu-tiful story.  I’m grateful that I am a part of it with her.

Jeremiah 1:5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

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It is important for me to remember this; as my life has wound through seasons and years, people have come and go, but this verse, this truth remains the same. Thank you for letting me share how God has always been with me.

  As an infant my environment did not reflect a loving household. 1985, My first year I moved from Nashville, TN with my mother, father and two biological brothers to Huston, TX with my father, aunt and brothers to Mt. Sterling, KY with house parents and my brothers at Hope Hill Children’s Home and finally Winchester, KY with my first official foster parents, without my brothers. They were a nice family. I have three older brothers and an older sister.

When I was 5, 1990, my father decided to reclaim my brothers and me from foster care. A day came when everyone’s face was sad and hearts heavy, too young for me to understand. I relocated to the next town over, Lexington, KY. My room was in the basement with my brothers down the hall. I cried myself to sleep and spent years trying to figure out what happened, what was still happening.

I staggered through the effects of alcohol and drugs in my new home. As my school years continued I settled in to feeling very lonely and outcast, almost hidden. My interest peaked in Wiccan and pagan practices. (Not necessarily dark, just something greater) I started making some friends in the neighborhood smoking cigarettes, pot and drinking. My oldest brother came out he was gay. His lifestyle had an impact on my introduction to rave parties, acid, ecstasy and mushrooms. All of these things I was reaching out for, trying to reach and understanding of “feel good” or love, left me empty at the end of every day.

My sophomore year 2001, there was a teacher who invested in me like no one before. Spending time after or in-between classes. She invited me to church and led me to a relationship with Jesus. I was so reluctant but I was told John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. The opportunity to be truly loved in a way that would never ever go away. Romans 8:38  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I was fully aware of the loneliness in life and the deep need for Love. A simple prayer between me and God, asking for forgiveness, acknowledging I needed/wanted Him/love in my life and I asked Jesus to make His home in my heart, to lead my life. (March 9, 2001) There was a still, small moment that I could feel God call to me. With the smallest amount of faith I prayed for the first time. “God if you’re there…” Something happened in that moment. I felt the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. My heart felt like butterflies. I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing. The feeling lasted days even weeks and it couldn’t have come a better time. While I transitioned from my fathers to the shelter and the attic I knew I was loved and felt like I was loved. Nothing in this world had ever given me that before, Jesus was/ is different. Life must go on, the bible says, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust.” Just because I am a person of faith doesn’t exempt me from difficulties. Difficulties that give me the opportunity to choose what character I will create in myself.

After returning home from the retreat I carried Jesus’s love with me everywhere. He made me confident, worthy and I had a great hope. I was ready to meet my next level of faith. My father met mine and my brothers’ maximum limit of tolerance for his abuse a month after my retreat. He was charged with neglect and we were placed back in states care with nowhere to go. Trying to place a 15 and 16 year old in the foster care program was a difficult task so we stayed in an emergency shelter for months and eventually were relocated again to an attic belonging to a man who previously sat on the board of the foster program. He was an extreme activist with no shower, stove or washer and dryer. There was no food in the house and if we went to school, we caught the city bus.

God introduced me to a family through the church that were foster parents. Job 29:12 because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them. I was so distracted by wanting out of states care and being tossed around I did not see the love right in front of me. I had a mother and father, 6 new sisters and 3 new brothers. The pain, resentment, anger and entitlement had me in bondage. All I could see was what I thought was the finish line, my 18th birthday. I managed to make up my grades and graduate high school. By graduation I was already moving my things to a friend’s house.

I let loose of the focus I had and put aside the truths I had found. Somehow forgetting, taking for granted the freedom, peace, and love I had found in my relationship and conversations with Jesus. I wanted to do what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted. I was pregnant the summer after graduation. My actions lead to guilt and shame. It was hard to strike a conversation with God. Even though I was scared and felt very alone again Jesus made, what I knew as, His first great promise to me; “You and this baby will be okay.” Almost an audible voice, the room seemed to clear of everything but this warm radiant light and I was again filled with strength and hope. My last ultra sound confirmed it. The doctors said March 22 and my heart knew March 9, 2004, exactly four years after I asked Jesus to lead my life. Sure enough I was held over in labor until March 9. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. This undeserving grace and gift was enough to humble my heart again. I felt the deep need for God in my life as my sons father went to prison I was left with the responsibility/ privilege. I stayed involved at the church, started college and worked full time in addition to being mom. I was blessed with peace and my son. I watched God touch others through how he was changing me, even witnessed my closest friends who came to know Jesus too and was able to pray with them to receive His love for the first time.

It was a few years later, that I was tempted by my old habits, hearing lies that I really wasn’t any different and that I could go back to those good ol party days instead of pretending I was this tied up person with a bow on top. I let go again and this time for 5 years. Dating many men, living in domestic violence, DVO’s, jail time, married, and divorced with three abortions, there was so much confusion I did not even want to begin to processing through it. Not until I was sitting at the Salvation Army with my two boys, driven to my knees with a deep need for Love. 1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

I started to realized just how bad things had gotten. I managed to save for our own apartment as I finished my AA degree. I was lonely, sledging through the days just trying to keep food in our bellies. I think I started to understand and learn this lesson. God dignifies us with free will, the power to make decisions of our own rather than having God or fate predetermine what we do. He wants us all as His own children but will not force or hold back any consequences. Even in the not so great choices He will still make good come of it, giving me strength and renewed hope. My faith in Jesus’s promise to never leave was becoming concrete.

After graduation, naturally I felt the need to start something new. I was feeling accomplished and determined to keep moving forward. I slowed my decision making and thought about how to start rebuilding. God needed to be the center and foundation for this restoration to be successful. I started small conversations and prayers. I was filled with a new hope, for my family to be put back together, healing to come to my biological family and reconciliation with my other past families. My second sons’ father and I agreed on forgiveness and started making plans to move out of the state, away from the labels we were living under. A new fresh start. This was going to be another very long journey. I was confident God was the engineer and paving the way. We had a large yard sale and headed out west. God carried the vehicle to the other side of the nation without a hiccup, to Huntington Beach, Ca.

First things first, my home and little family needed to be on the same playing field. God provided a home just a half a mile from the beach, a great connect to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and Celebrate Recovery, for all hurts, habits and hang ups and I enrolled at Azusa Pacific University, a Christian Liberal Arts College. Jesus began to soften both our hearts. As I prayed, God worked miracles and my boyfriend was baptized with my oldest son on June 29 of 2014. 2 Corinthians 5:17 this means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! beautiful

Again a new season with new hearts and renewed spirits. Together we were filled with another new hope and wanted to go back home to face the past so we could share this love with our friends and family. I was in awe of the way God had moved in our lives bringing to light the desires of my heart. Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

There has been a pruning process, healing broken places in our hearts, weeding out the things not needed for our future and restoring joy to our lives. It has been a difficult road since we have been back almost 2 years. In fact it reminds me a bit of the exorcist. It is not a pretty process but God promises; He gives beauty for ashes, Strength for fear, Gladness for mourning, Peace for despair.

I pray for the day when a great purpose will be revealed and I will be equipped for success, to glorify what God has done in me. So for now, I will be still, quiet, taking no action but to do what is in front of me and read the word, and pray. Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Lord, I am in awe of You and what You can and will do for us.  Thank you for giving me my friend.  Continue to guide her, making your love for her evident.  Amen

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Past does not predict Future

Rachel Solomon:  Never under estimate the love that you can get from a “mom” that is not biological.  That is what she is to me!  Wisdom, a stern voice, a gentle hug and a nudge to look to God for the answers.  I’ve seen the happy times for Rachel, the scary times and the heart breaking times and through them all, I’ve seen  her seeking God.  One can never have too many people in their life to help keep them on track.  So grateful God put her in mine.

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As I entered the world in 1939 as Rachel Ann Crews, I had no idea what my childhood  years would bring. About age four, I became aware of our family life, I heard shouting, arguments, and profanity as my mother and father embroiled in domestic problems that continued throughout my teen years. When the problems turned into spousal abuse, we would call the police. Although it seemed I held my breath for years anticipating what struggle might happen next, fortunately, the struggles were interrupted periodically with good times, and we could exhale our fears for a while. Although there was strife at home, we went to church every Sunday and smiled as if everything was wonderful. Although I felt a connection to God at church, God was not present in my childhood home.

In my younger years, church and school became my safe havens. I looked forward to school during the week and to church on Sunday because these were places where no one was fussing at me. During my school years I excelled in my classes, made friends, played sports and found a sense of belonging. During my church years I studied the Bible, made friends, found mentors and felt a sense of acceptance far beyond my expectations. I came to believe that Jesus, indeed, did love all the little children.

Although there was ongoing turmoil between our parents, both parents were usually at home. There were occasions when daddy would be gone with no explanation. I learned years later that his absences were to dodge bill collectors. I went to three schools in the 7th grade, again with no explanation; just before, it was due to failure to pay bills, especially the rent. By the eighth grade, our family situation stabilized somewhat, and we bought our first home. I was able to go to the same school until graduation. During my high school years, our family deteriorated to the point where my daddy picked up my younger sister from school and left town; my mother had no idea where they were, and we feared they were gone forever. Although she had her share in the domestic problems, mother took us to church and saw that we had food to eat and a place to live.

I became engaged in my senior year of high school, and following graduation, I married my high school sweetheart Talmadge Solomon–one of the best decisions I have ever made. We shared a common faith and always went to church together. During our first year of marriage my daddy died while hundreds of miles from us. My baby sister was returned home and the funeral for my daddy proceeded as if we were a normal family. I did not cry because I felt no loss. Years later, as my husband held me, I wept uncontrollably over all the things my daddy had missed, most of all, my graduation and my wedding.

Although we married as teenagers, we began immediately to build our Christian lives together. We were serious about life, and over the next ten years, we had two children, moved to a state far away, worked so my husband could complete seminary, and we began full-time ministry work in NC and VA in the late 1960’s.

We reared our two children in a stable, loving home, and we were surrounded by hundreds of Christians who valued our Kingdom-work. In the late 1980’s, at the age of 47, I started to college. Some of my friends said, “But, you’ll be 50 by the time you finish!” I told them I would be 50 anyway, so I might as well get the degree I had wanted all my life–another one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I graduated with high honors for my degree in Criminal Justice in 1989. My subsequent career and retirement with the NC Department of Crime Control and Public Safety made my mid-life and senior years challenging and rewarding. My husband continued in the ministry, and I continued to be involved in every area where I could serve at our Church. Because of our mutual love for God and our mutual love for each other, our connection to all things spiritual continues to be who we are.  I began writing an article, GRAY HAIR TALKING, for our church newsletter, which was well received. In a couple of years, I explored how to use my articles for videos on YouTube–another one of the best decisions I have ever made.

At the age of 70, with lots of help from my daughter and other experts, I entered the vast world of social media. My producer really did the whole “lights, camera, action” routine. In five years, we filmed 65 videos, had tens of thousands of hits, hundreds of subscribers, and responses from viewers in over 70 countries. The story of GRAY HAIR TALKING (GHT) entered another phase as I realized the value of this tool to share my faith.

At age 75, I discussed with my daughter a book based on the GHT videos. And at age 76, with my daughter’s expertise, we co-authored our first book of personal devotions, titled of course, GRAY HAIR TALKING, which became available in 2015 at Gray Hair Talking on Amazon.com. Now, at age 77, we are writing our second book, which will have video-driven lessons for any type of class or small group setting based upon the actual GHT videos on YouTube. November 2016 is our projected release date.

Gray Hair Talking – click to open youtube

I hope the take-aways from this Solomon Saga will be encouraging to you. Your past does not have to predict your future. You can overcome whatever you do not want in your life. Get connected to positive people who can drown out the negativity from other people in your life. Identify your skills and use them for Kingdom-work. If you have a dream, and I believe we all have a dream, do something today that will put you one step closer to God and to that dream. Rachel Solomon

Lord, thank you for blessing me with Rachel.  Please be with her and continue to bless those around her. Amen

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Overcomer

Patricia Coleman:  Compassionate & Determined, these are the words that I would use for Patricia.  My journey with Patricia is just starting.  I’ve seen her from a distance, followed her on FB and known that she was a force to be reckoned with.  She is driven with great passion for the hurting and yet still searching for her own pathway.  I’m so looking forward to the years that come for our future as friends.  And for what we can teach each other and what God will teach us.  It’s going to be fantastic, for sure I know that!

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The story of my life with God….

I grew up in a family that admired God. We had the beautiful “Big Book” on the library shelf — The Holy Bible. I touched it most often when I would pull it out to have my brother lay his hand on it and solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth….so help him God.

My family attended the Presbyterian Church just a few doors down from my home and I asked Jesus into my heart when I was in the 3rd grade. I loved to pray as a child and often fell asleep talking to God. I was the youngest of five children. Although my family had some real struggles as they all do, I had great parents and a beautiful family, and I was definitely, Daddy’s Girl.

When I was in 8th grade, my precious father died of a massive heart attack, while he was taking a stress test. This forever changed the family and life I had known to that point. I can remember the shock and immediate denial and the denial that so much would change in my life and my family’s lives moving forward.

Not long after entering high school, I started making bad decisions. I was not thinking about my future, and my prayer life had died. I still believed in God, I even loved God, but I think the problem was that I did not understand His love for me and I did not have His Truth hidden in my heart.  The world had me, deception had me.

My bad decisions through my early teen years left me hurt and wounded. I felt my family was falling apart and we all seemed to be drifting away from each other. I was lost and thought I found missing love where it really did not exist.  I ended up pregnant. At that time in my life, I was devastated and felt like a failure.

I did turn back to God somewhat during that time.  I started praying again, however, I did not understand how someone like me could be a mother; for the first time in a long time, I felt like a child again myself – a very scared child. This is how I became a birth mother to my first child, Marcus, who I gave up for adoption when I was 17.

My life was completely different after that. It was colder and sadder than I care to even remember. I disconnected from my old life and friends as much as possible. My childhood home was sold during this time, and I moved to another city. I was depressed and I desperately kept praying and willing time to move forward as fast as possible so I could forget my pain.

I met my husband, Eddie, about one year later. He was different than any guy I had known, and I loved spending time with him.  Before I knew it, I was laughing again. It did not take me long to fall in love.

Eddie and I only dated a short time before we married. We were young, broke, and in love. Within one year of being married, we were pregnant with Gary. Being a mother changed me.  I was determined to be the mother I had thought I could not be and within eighteen months we had Anna, our daughter.  I loved my babies!

Eddie and I started attending a local Baptist church soon after the kids were born.  I made the decision to be baptized, and I started reading the Bible sometimes.  I was trying to make things as perfect for my little family as possible, yet I continued to struggle with past regrets and the sweet love I had for my children brought me constant pain for my missing child, Marcus. God met me where I was, He brought me comfort and peace that passed all understanding in those moments, and I had a lot of those moments. God even brought Marcus back into my life and our families’ lives for a reunion that possibly looked like a Hallmark movie from the outside.  I was still trying to grasp control of it all — fixing the past and trying to control my little family and now my Marcus, over whom I had no legal authority so that was just constant worry I struggled with.

As the years rolled by with raising kids and trying to control everyone I loved, Eddie and I had major struggles in our marriage and almost divorced.  I also lost my job I had for the last seven years and an income we relied on. It was a breaking point for me.fb_img_1475933294060

I started praying AND reading my Bible daily. I could not get enough of God’s Word.  I started in Matthew and I fell in love with Jesus somewhere in the book of John. He reminded me of who He was and what I meant to Him. He opened my eyes and I realized He brought me through times I almost destroyed myself, He gave me peace and took away my guilt and shame. He placed a passion in me to share Him and His forgiveness and love with others. He changed my marriage and restored it and He reminded me, that my children are His children and He loves them and watches over them. I also began sharing Jesus with others and our family started connecting and serving with a local Church.

One of my life verses:

John 16:33 I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace, in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.

I’ve had struggles in life again since this time, but now when I am attacked, I have His Truth hidden in my heart. We will overcome by the blood of Jesus and the words of our testimony. Patricia Coleman

Lord, thank you for putting people in my life that challenge me to think out of the box.  Patricia is one of those for sure.  Please continue to help her in her times of questioning and guide her every step.  Her desires are Your desires.  Amen!

SAVED MY LIFE

Tianna Cummings:  I have known Tianna since she was a little girl.  And I’ve also gotten to experience serving along side of her.  She is passionate about what she believes the Lord is leading her to do and she loves deeply.  I’m proud to have been able to be a part of her growing up years and I’m excited to see what the Lord does with her future.  One thing for sure I know is that she will do it to the best of her ability and she isn’t afraid of following His lead.  Glad to be a 2nd mom to this wonderful child of God!

tiannaMy story with God, is a simple one – He saved my life. When I say that, I don’t mean God sending his one and only son to be crucified so that I might live. God sent me people that reminded me, not only who He is and why but that I matter and I have been given the gift of a life that needs living.

My parents got pregnant with me at a young age, they separated at a young age, which left me at a young age, without a father. Ironically, one of the few things I ever longed for in this world, was a strong, father/daughter relationship and that is still something I desire to have as a 23 year old young women. I truly believe that my God has a real serious sense of humor. He has always known my heart but our definitions haven’t always come from the same dictionary. God blessed me with a grandfather who has taken on some of the familial father roles; this is how God started placing people in my life.

I spent my formative years in North Carolina, while my father lived in Minnesota. When I was 11 years old, I told my mom, I wanted to move to Minnesota to live with my father, my step mom and my step brother, to help eliminate any of the excuses he fashioned for why we didn’t have a relationship. In the time I lived in Minnesota with them, I became very depressed and in fact suicidal. I think that I have always been a strong believer in the fact that God knows my heart and of course when you make those desires known, He will give them to you (within reason.) At 12, going on 13, the young girl in me, couldn’t understand why God hadn’t given my father the days off work to spend with me, or the courage to just tell me why he didn’t do for me but could do for his step son – those times and conversations never came. With that, I began traveling down the road of reason that if I couldn’t have the one desire of my heart – a true dad, then there would be no need to keep fighting for that or hurting over it not happening. But when I came back to North Carolina, I started almost therapy with my youth minister. Funny thing, looking back, that was God placing a man in my life to fill a void.

After returning back to North Carolina and starting high school, I began struggling with my mom. Growing up in a single parent household was given a new meaning when my life started. As I mentioned before, my parents got pregnant young, my parents and I are nineteen years apart. At no fault of my mom, I think it just got hard for her. At one point, we lived with my grandparents, I remember she moved out and I stayed with them to go to better schools and then she just stopped coming by the house, or I would only see her on the weekends and then back home with my (grand)parents. Definition wise, I come from a single mother household, but I grew up with two parents, they just didn’t directly birth me. That was a long way around, but starting high school, my mom and I began to have some issues of respect, and boundaries. Some would consider it normal, if these were issues with a parent you saw everyday, but that wasn’t us. This took me ever further down the path of suicide that I started a few years earlier – if the people that God gave me as parents don’t respect me or love me or want to do for me, then why should I make it harder for them?

I didn’t know it then, but God had always heard my prayers and knew my heart, but it wasn’t until that moment, he began to what appeared to be, as actively answering. He sent me women from my church, with boys, or adult children, or no children at all- women like Rhoda Gould, Ingrid Ruffin and Natasha Owens. These women all entered my life for different reasons and have stayed with me through many seasons.

Without these women and men, my story would have ended years too soon. My life is not perfect. I eventually had to accept that I would have to forgive my father and that my mom and I are better apart. I thank God for the role both my parents have played and still play in shaping the adult I am becoming. Now, my father believes he his entitled to a relationship with me and had this epiphany after my 21st birthday. I have now come to the realization that I had forgiven my father at 18, for the hurt caused up until that point, but now I need to forgive him for the hurt he’s brought back between then and now. And I am learning discernment in speaking to my mother as her adult child.

Some people think because I am outgoing and loud and comfortable in front of crowds, that it’s easy. I understand that there will always be someone my age or younger who has or is living something far worse than what I’ve experienced – it’s all relative, but that doesn’t mean that my monsters are any less terrifying to me or the same for the next person.

As my 21st birthday gift to myself, I got, “Matthew 6:25, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry for each day has enough troubles of its own.’

Love always and forever, Mommy.” I have learned my past took too much energy in worrying about a world without me in it. My God clearly states in that verse that I am more important than the animals and yet, even they don’t worry. Sharing that just leaves room for God to save another life, just like he saved mine!  Tianna Cummings

Lord, be with Tianna as she moves into the next phase of life following You.  Give her the people around her  that will encourage her and help keep her on the path to You.  Thank You Lord for allowing me to be part of her journey.  Remind us Lord that we are to seek out those we can serve.  Amen!

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The Walk

Sandy Malsom:  I’ve known this lovely lady  for 29 years.  Wow, I can’t believe that……. 29 years.  She has seen my babies grow up to men and helped me grow in my walk with the Lord.  I’m the daughter from another mother, that she has loved, nurtured and guided through some pretty tough stuff.  We can never have too many people to love or love us and I’m thankful that the Lord placed her in my life.  I’m sure that you will see in Sandy’s story that life hasn’t been full of fluffy clouds and cotton candy yet she found her way back to the Lord and He never let go of her.


14333848_1223781427663773_8911108674556470601_nTHE WALK   
“Be faithful until death and you will receive a crown of life.”  Be faithful.  When does it start?  For me, a life long “church goer” it began with Sunday school at age four.  “Jesus loves me this I know.”  My walk continued through youth because of Godly parents until I reached a “time of decision” at age twelve.  I loved Jesus, I knew I had sinned, and I wanted to go to heaven.  I was baptized on June 6, 1958.  The walk continued on a relatively smooth path.

Gradually the smooth path turned to one filled with boulders.  You may ask why?  I chose to sin.  It’s a long story but the results were I was sixteen and pregnant.  There is not enough time or space to go into all the details of a painful, horrible four-year period for me and my family. My son’s biological father was in and out of our lives.  Satan brought all the wrath of hell upon me, my son and my family for five years all because I chose to walk away from Jesus.  But, never was there a time when He left me alone. Jesus took the clay of which I am made and slowly, using my wrong choices and life’s experiences, set about making me into what He wanted me to be, His child.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I wish that I could say I never again made wrong decisions.  Not so.  But through each experience, I grew in my love for God.  It was wonderment to me.  He protected me.  He never left me alone.

When I was twenty-two I married a wonderful man whom I had known since I was in the third grade.    Dean and I have now been married for forty-eight years.  We lost our precious son ten years ago to cancer.  Half of my heart was gone.  However, Dean and I survived by staying close to God during a long mourning period.   We wanted to cocoon, and we did for a while, but we never left God and God was faithful.

As our marriage has ebbed and flowed we have been through joyous times, painful times, challenges and resolutions.  During the forty-eight years we have stayed in the Word and continue to make God the Center of our lives.  Never once have we ever walked alone.

James 1:12

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Yes, Jesus loves me.  As another great Christian song says, “I will rise up and lay my crown at His wounded feet.”  I started my walk with God at age four.  I am now seventy years of age.  “Be faithful until death.”  Keep running the race.      Sandy Malsom

Thank you Lord for sending Sandy into my life 29 years ago and thank you for giving her to me today.  Be with the ladies/men that read this story and help their hearts be open to hear the good news about You. Amen!

Always His, Rhonda

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Restoration

Alisa Bickham :     I’ve known Alisa for a few years now but really over the last year our relationship has grown.  I’ve seen a crumbled, an angry, a cautious and a baby step woman and now I see a renewed light shining in her smile.  God did that for her, in his timing!  We might not understand his timing during the process but I believe you’ll see that Alisa is beginning to understand it in her story…………….

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My walk with God started in my 20’s.  As a young Christian, I was blind to how much “self” was the focus of my life — sufficiency, pride, fear, perfectionism, materialism, and self righteous judgment.

In my 30’s,  my husband and I felt the call to adopt from Russia.  Over the course of 5 years, we adopted 3 children.  We rocked along for about 8 years.  As the children began to mature, issues surfaced.  There was never a peaceful calm.  One morning during my quiet time, the Lord laid it on my heart to pray for restoration for each family member.   I wrote the petition on a piece of paper, front and back.   That same night, our world turned upside down with the realization that our 10 year old son — who was our oldest son — was addicted to pornography.  Our middle son had been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome several years before this.  Our daughter was soon to be diagnosed with PTSD from trauma suffered while in the Russian orphanage that we were unaware of.  We adopted her at the age of 7 1/2.
With the progression of the addiction to porn, we sent our oldest son to rehab at the age of 15.  It was during this time that our daughter started having flashbacks.  She subsequently did a one week Intensive Therapy followed by several years of ongoing therapy.  Our youngest son started to spiral out of control with his behaviors also.
As our family seemed to be crashing, my husband lost his job.  I questioned God and began to say “If this is what restoration looks like, no thanks.”   We were not functioning as a family unit but as wounded souls, each trying to make it through the day.  My husband and I had exhausted any and all savings plus a lot of our retirement.  I was angry and carrying guilt for not trusting God.
Then God planted us in KY.  We have seen His hand in our relocation.  Our daughter has gotten a scholarship and is attending a KY college and is continuing to heal.  After undergraduate, she will continue her studies to become a trauma based therapist.  Our youngest son who is almost 20 has moved in with another couple and is flourishing; and we are hopeful one day, he can live on his own.  Our oldest son is still walking without God, but I know God has plans for him and will bring it about in His time.
My husband and I completed the Step Study in Celebrate Recovery.  I will start working with a holistic detox/ safe house for women who are victims of Sex Trafficking.
About three quarters of the petitions God laid on my heart to pray for restoration of our family have become a reality.  The path to sanctification and restoration may not be easy or look like what I had envisioned; but dying to self and becoming more like Jesus is worth it.
Isaiah 41:8-10
“But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you.  I said, ‘you are my servant,’ I have chosen you and have not rejected you.  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Just beautiful………….I pray that you have gleaned some insight on how God works in our lives,
Love ya, Rhonda